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  • By Jon Rimmerman
    6/18/2008, (See more on Garagiste...)

    (Kirchmayr Riesling Altenberg) 1990

    Dear Friends,

    Now for something completely different...

    When traveling in Austria it is always a treat to stumble upon an aged bottle of Kirchmayr Solist at a local restaurant. This is one label you can purchase off a restaurant wine list with great confidence - if they have an old vintage it's bound to be first-rate. Why? The odds are it was just released by the winery, even if it's from the 1950s.

    If you are looking for top-quality library stock and you are into Riesling, you may want to pay special attention here. Kirchmayr is one of the most unheralded sources for Austrian Riesling (and Gruner) for one simple reason - they don't release the wine until it is ready (and that could be 20-30 years). They hold back stock of their very best lots (single vineyard only) and keep them for at least ten years but typically 15-20 in the baroque cellar of Seitenstetten (a monastery). In the case of the early 1970s wines, it was 30 years before they were released and they sold out in a blink. Only wines with what they would consider to be "extra-ordinary depth and ageing potential" (emphasis on the hyphen between "extra" and "ordinary") are candidates for this regimen and they pass over 95% of their stock each year and settle on maybe 5% that fits their requirement for a Solist bottling (the name of this special library stock). If there is a question as to the longevity, the vintage is passed over completely.

    This is natural winemaking and tradition on par with Giacomo Conterno or even Valentini. Only large, old wooden casks are used, with native yeasts from the Seitenstetten: "Spontaneous fermentation and vinification in large wooden barrels are essential components of the philosophy of the winery where longevity and natural elegance are among the highest criteria". All of the Solist wines, regardless of vintage, have a sheer brilliance of definition about them (in an olfactory and gustatory sense) - they are comparable to any of the most admired wines in the world and are a downright bargain for what they are (new releases from Austria cost more than this and you will have to wait 20 years to get this type of complexity).

    Every year, Kirchmayr tastes representative bottles of each vintage lying in the cellar (back 20, 30, 40 even 50 years) and the determination is made if any will be released. They may release 5, 10, or maybe 20 cases from a vintage and then leave the remainder for another decade to release a small amount again. A very interesting method but it is the tradition in their family and one the new generation will not alter. Original cellar-stock of this magnitude is always exciting but something this unusual gets the oenophile's blood racing just a little bit quicker.

    The latest set to be released by the winery includes two venerable vintages of the 1990s - 1993 and 1990 (many would argue two of the best vintages in the last 20-30). The wines are sublime - period. These are not for those looking for a nice, easygoing experience - they are wines of soul and solid rock that can take your breath away for their razor-sharp direction and verve. The 1993 is slightly richer from the off-dry element but the 1990 is so on-point it's tough to pass up. Both have aromatics that are near-perfect for aged Austrian Riesling and you can get lost in the nose alone. Both vintages also reflect their site place (Weinviertel and Wachau) and are ready to drink now. Both are VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

    ONE MINISCULE SHIPMENT ONLY with perfect provenance:

    1993 Kirchmayr Riesling "Loibenberg - Konig Altwein" Solist (Wachau) EXTREMELY LIMITED
    180 bottles released by the winery (for the world) - if you see this listed anywhere else, I would be shocked if they have more than one bottle. Slightly off-dry and all the better for it:

    Kirchmayr: "The wine from 1993 had a lot of fruit and elegance, accompanied by a harmonious acidity. Richly complex in character, the wine is developing aromas of grapefruit, dried quince, acacia-honey, a wonderful ripe aroma, succulent, fantastic minerality spice on the palate, winning in its harmony and elegance; great charm, delicate dense structure, full-bodied; the wine has a perfect acidity to sugar and to fruit balance; long lingering finish; semi-dry; a sophisticated wine."

    1990 Kirchmayr Riesling "Altenberg" Solist (Weinviertel) EXTREMELY LIMITED
    120 bottles released by the winery (for the world) - ditto what I said above and even rarer than the 1993. Think 1990 Clos St. Hune is good (at $300-400/bottle)? Try this bone dry example approaching it's twenty year anniversary:

    Kirchmayr: "In 1990, The wines had harmonious acidity and pleasant fruit. Typical notes of a matured Riesling, dried fruits, stonefruit, white flowers, clearly defined; harmonious interlacing of acidity, a distinguished dry wine."

    Thank you,

    Jon Rimmerman
    Seattle, WA


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